Thru the Bible – Day 302

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Day 302 – Thru the Bible

Today we continue in First Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 3In this section of the letter, continuing his response to the problem of factions in the church, Paul contrasts the Jesus-centered perspective which Believers should embrace (“the mind of Christ”; 2:16) with the human-centered, worldly perspective so prominent in the Corinthian church.

The text assumes three things about Believers in Jesus. First, we are God’s holy temple, built on the foundation of Jesus’ work, and filled with God’s Spirit. Second, we are still capable of profound spiritual immaturity, and of living like “people of the flesh.” Third, because the Spirit is at work in us (2:14–15), we are capable of responding with repentance when confronted with our sin. Because of these truths, we neither deny our sin nor despair when it is revealed. Instead, knowing that we belong to Jesus, we are free to take both sin and repentance seriously.

For the Corinthians, association with noteworthy and accomplished church leaders is a means of claiming superiority over other Believers. By contrast, Paul exemplifies a perspective that honors divine provision over human accomplishment. He reminds the Corinthians that even the greatest leader is only a servant of the Lord Jesus, and human labor is fruitful only because God “gives the growth.” Because our gifts and service are “according to the grace of God,” we cannot take credit for the good He accomplishes through us. Further, since Believers are “fellow heirs” with Jesus (Romans 8:14–30), worldly measures of success and status cannot enhance or diminish our standing before God. Finally, a Jesus-centered perspective means that we need not fear how other people evaluate us, caring less about human praise or criticism than about faithfulness to the Lord who has bought us and made us His friends.

Within this framework of grace, Paul exhorts Believers, all of whom have a part to play in the church’s gospel-promoting mission, to prepare for a future evaluation of their service to Jesus. Love for Jesus means that we should not depend on ordinary building materials (such as worldly wisdom, boasting, or human strength) as we build on the “foundation” of His work; rather, Jesus deserves the “gold, silver, [and] precious stones” of which temples are made—that is, a mind-set and lifestyle devoted to God’s glory, wisdom, and power. At the day of judgment, the Lord Jesus will wisely and justly remove from our work anything that honors human contributions above His own; though this discipline will be painful, we will be saved by His finished work. Despite its serious warning, the text displays several aspects of God’s grace: (1) God not only reveals the threat of “loss”, but a path of repentance by which we may avoid such loss; (2) whatever “reward” we receive in the end will honor “the grace of God” by which we labored; and (3) ability for faithful labor comes from our new identity as “God’s temple.”

How do you react when confronted by your own sin? How does the Gospel free you from shame and guilt?

1 Corinthians 4Paul’s final comments on the problem of factions in the church center on one admonition: “be imitators of me.” The text reflects a cycle of Gospel embrace (Paul’s passion for the Gospel), leading to Gospel transformation (Paul’s Jesus-like character), and promoting Gospel multiplication (Paul’s desire to help others grow in Jesus).

As Paul, the former persecutor of Believers, knows from personal experience, his preaching of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is not merely a matter of recited words; it is a testimony of the Spirit’s transforming power. This power has made Paul an example of Jesus-centered living for his spiritual children. Thus, rather than viewing leaders like him through a lens of human accomplishment and boasting, Believers are to imitate their “ways in Christ”, which include: (1) delighting not when others recognize our wealth and power, but when our foolishness, weakness, dishonor, and desperate need are put on display for all to see; and (2) enduring hardship with Christlike compassion, even praying for those who treat us like “scum” and “refuse”.

In short, more mature Believers model, and less mature Believers learn, the ways of the cross. This will increase our dependence on Jesus, as the faithfulness of any human “hero” ultimately reflects and results from the Savior’s faithfulness – our true Hero.

How do you keep Jesus at the center of all you admire?

What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?

Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.

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